We are talking about a man living among us. A humble, self-made man born among the swarm of refugee families who drifted towards the Indian mainland during the partition of Bengal. Like the others living in his colony, they had no proper food or shelter for years. But today, he is 65, with an age-old wisdom and an engaging story of struggles to narrate to the world.
Meet Dr.Tapan Kumar Ray. He was the eldest son amongst a family of five. The family migrated to the State of Orissa from East Bengal to give a fresh start to their livelihood. His kin was always in the medical field, popularly known as the Chandsi(an indigenous Ayurvedic family). Tapan’s father too carried on this family profession of Ayurvedic medicine.
They say that he was a bright child and that he was no less than a phoenix. In a dilapidated cluster of poor families, he would read for nights together, one book after other, and his mother who though, wouldn’t understand a word, sit by his side and listen to his orations. Walking, and then cycling for miles he would go to school and would return with stolen fruits or fish from the nearby pond or river which will be cooked and served to their family. There were days, perhaps years if counted all together, when they had very less or almost nothing to eat when their father didn’t find a patient to treat.
His parents sent him to stay with one of his Zamindar friends when he was in class 8 and that was where Tapan found his true self. His friend, who was born with a silver spoon, was poor in studies. Tapan would constantly help him to catch up with the class. Additionally, this wealthy chap was given ‘guitar’ tuitions. Tapan would distantly listen to these classes and admire and yearn to learn the strings. With time, he made it possible and started learning, playing and teaching the guitar. With his shows and tuitions, he managed to get a meager amount of money which he would send home or save for his expenses.
And then one day amongst his struggles, he made it to the medical college. This was a crucial point of his life. He had to choose between his desires and livelihood. That day, his father called him to his room and told him that he is the one who would make his family proud. And after a long thought, and the mental echo of his father’s words, he decided to pursue the latter, that is to serve the mankind and treat the ailing. And that’s how his medical journey began.
His days were then filled with anatomy dissections and his evenings were spent in melodies or tuitions where he would be with his guitar. And so quite justifiably he calls ‘guitar’ his ‘first wife’!
After completing M.B.B.S., Tapan served as a periphery doctor in the remotest areas of Orissa. There, he met poverty, wilderness, tribes and of course ‘loneliness’. In these peripheral days, he understood the pain and trouble of the poor and ailing the most.
Following his short term of service, he rejoined the medical college as a student of Anaesthesia. And after two years, he became a full phased anaesthesiologist. In his years of service, Tapan has served as a Professor and H.O.D. of Anaesthesiology department in the Government Medical Colleges of Odisha.
He did try doing private practice for a while, but found it futile and chose to teach in the medical college and treat for free.
In his entire career, he never charged any patient for consultation or treatment. Today, he has taken retirement from the Government Service and works as a guest Professor for the Kalinga Insitute of Medical Sciences. Along with that, he treats innumerable patients for ‘free’ in the Hariharananda Charitable Trust Hospital at Cuttack(which provides free treatment to all its patients.)
If by now you have generated curiosity about his family life, then like all doctors and struggling men who feed their families and the needy, Tapan had to spend all his youth in medical service. He quotes that he had never dreamed of a lady love during his college days as he was aware of the difficult ground realities around him. At the age of 40, he married Miss Nilima Pandit, who is a chemistry demonstrator and an acquaintance of their common friend.
They were among those progressive couples who had an inter-caste marriage with their parent’s consent. Tapan’s broad thinking gave the liberty to Nilima to keep her surname intact i.e. she is still a ‘Pandit’ and not ‘Ray’. Today they own a farmhouse in Cuttack where they live amongst trees and pets and are blessed with a glowing 23-year-old daughter who works as a journalist in DD News.
The world indeed is in need of more ‘humans’ and doctors like him.